By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
Mustapha Bai Attila is no stranger to diatribe and controversy. More than a decade ago, while serving as a radio announcer at Voice of the Handicap, FM 96.2, he used his inherent artistic brilliance to invent the phrase ‘wonshi worwo’, which was an apparent slur against women who bleach their skin. The phrase caused many fights and threatened the peaceful co-existence around the country, until government intervened and banned the use of the bigoted word. Yet, Attila was not arrested by the authorities, despite the many fisticuffs between women and some overzealous youth who clearly took the law into their hands, on the incitement of the former, because the government thought whether rightly or wrongly that it was within his right of free speech, although caustic.
Also, during his tenure at the station, before he broke ranks with James Taiwo Collins and sought greener pastures in the United States, Attila was the greatest exponent of inflammatory statements on radio land. At no time was he arrested, albeit he was once attacked by some unknown persons, a dastardly act that many, including yours truly, condemned.
However, despite his perceived education and refinement in the United States, Attila, it seems, remains unrefined and intolerant, and still prone to stoking the flames of violence and recklessly abusing his powers, despite being a very junior minister in government. Thus, as habits die hard, he was in character again last week, for the wrong reasons though, when he arrogantly called for those against the ‘After U Na U’ slogan to be arrested! I could not help but ask under which authority was the junior minister calling for citizens to be arrested for the simple reason of expressing their opinion?
In case he is not aware, the deputy minister of Social Welfare should be reminded that we have a constitution which protects fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, and it is not within the mandate of his junior ministerial powers to call for citizens to be arrested, their sole crime, in his warped mind being, condemning a dangerous call for an extended term for a president whose term should come to an end by 2018 latest.
Thus, whether someone is in favour, as he would want all Sierra Leoneans to, or not, all sides are guaranteed their right to free expression. To underscore that, even President Koroma, who is at the centre of this grave constitutional ballyhoo, is on record to have said that it was within the rights of citizens to express what they think is best for the polity.
So, for the Attila and his ilk who believe freedom of expression should only be limited to those in favour of the controversial tenure elongation for President Koroma, you better get it that there are equally vast number of Sierra Leoneans who believe that mistakes of the past should not be repeated in our days. Simply put, our democracy and constitution should not be desecrated by another stage-managed process aimed at ensuring someone is at the helm of power until they are satisfied, or worse still have wrecked immense havoc on the country’s democratic soul.
The point of propagating an extended mandate for someone who had sworn to the constitution which limits the presidential term limit to two five years terms, whether served consecutively or not, is not only vexatious but worrying because such has the potential to throw spanners into the democratic progress we have made as a nation.
This is no scare mongering, as those in support of the call would want us to believe. The fact of the matter is that it portends a dangerous road in our democratic journey once again, just as it did decades ago when the same party went to town with first a Republican constitution and later the One-Party rogue system of governance. According to its proponents, it was in vogue in West Africa or Africa. However, term extension is definitely not in trend in the sub-region or Africa at present, although some countries have taken that route, no doubt by the use of the carrot and stick approach. That being the case, majority of citizens in those few countries on the continent will not openly say they support the system, because it has all but given birth to pseudo-democrats who use money and power to bribe and coerce those oppose to them into submission.
The result is a growing number of dissents, which is suppressed by a repressive police force or military, but which has the potential to cause an implosion in the near future! We don’t want such to happen in Sierra Leone again, after what we went through during those ugly days. That is the reason I urge our compatriots to see reason and not allow selfish ambition and quest for personal gains to blur their vision for a democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone; a country that has no deficit of capable leaders who can continue to lead the country to feasible and holistic sustainable development.
It is in that spirit of love for country and respect for individual and collective rights, including the minority, that the likes of Attila who are drunk with power and driven by obsequiousness, should be roundly condemned and told to their face and hearing that no attempt to intimidate Sierra Leoneans by threats of arrest will cow us, rather such will only embolden the silent majority, who also fought anarchy personified by the Johnny Paul Koroma led junta, to resist and defeat such undemocratic moves.